I was recently teaching a group of 8 year old Japanese kids the fascinating art of giving your telephone number in British English. A redundant feature of the modern world but the powers-that-be think they need to know that oh is said rather than zero and that numbers are broken down into small groups or pairs with use of the word double when necessary.
A decade of teaching this kind of function can be a pretty dull activity when it appears in the text so to amuse myself I call out famous numbers from TV and radio such as the old ‘Live & Kicking‘ Saturday morning kids TV number and the kids write the number out on the whiteboard. One day I came out with a number that really took me back to my childhood and brought memories flooding back of a British football information service from yesteryear.
What young children are looking at on their computers is a prime concern for parents these days but back in the late 80’s they were more worried about what phone numbers their kids were dialling up without permission. Yes, I’m talking 0898 numbers but nothing sexual here. In fact what you’d hear on the other end of 0898 12-11-85 couldn’t have been any further from being a turn-on (even on the best of days!) for this was the Leicester City Clubcall number.
Back in 1986 this telephone news service was launched and the numbers for each club were all advertised in ‘Match‘ and ‘Shoot‘ magazines. Some football fans even rang the number of more than one club! This was in an era long before the blanket coverage seen and heard on the likes of Sky, 5 Live, internet and mobile phones, and it enabled us City fans to “find out” what was going on at our club. I use the term loosely as I don’t remember hearing that much news. It was probably of similar note to that other service of the time; the now defunct teletext service.
In the days of having Bryan Hamilton and David Pleat at the helm, Clubcall was the only source for getting information at an expensive premium rate. People of a certain age may remember the number and it will almost certainly send a shiver down the spine of any parent who recalls being asked (if they were indeed asked at all!!) if they could dial up this number and listen to an automated male voice speak slowly amid an annoying buzzing noise in the background. I can remember my mum hovering over me with a close eye on the clock making sure that I didn’t go over my allotted one minute as at this service was not cheap. More money was probably spent on Clubcall than season tickets by some fans I expect.
The announcer used to thank you for calling Clubcall, explain the service, describe the pitch conditions before informing us (finally) of some vague news relating to the likes of Alan Paris, Simon Morgan, Jimmy Quinn and co or if we were really lucky there would be news of a signing on the horizon which inevitably resulted in never hearing much of that story ever again.
BT sold Clubcall to Ladbrokes in 1991 and believe it or not the company is actually still operating though of course its evolved to become a sports website and international mobile content provider. The idea of a telephone football information service seems crazy in this day and age where its easy to access information at all times as we receive wall-to-wall coverage of the beautiful game in its modern form but back then it played an important role in keeping us informed.